TV View: RTÉ panel lost for words to portray Mayo’s pain
Sleeveless Diarmuid Connolly caused quite a stir before the game
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford consoles Cillian O’Connor after the game. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
It’s rare that Pat Spillane is lost for words, but anyone with a heart – or a Mayo cousin – would have related to his speechlessness. “I don’t know what I can say to the people of Mayo,” he sighed, before examining the floor of RTÉ’s Croke Park studio for a moment in search of inspiration. “They died with their boots on,” he offered, in a well-meaning kind of way, when you’d guess Mayo were tempted to lob said footwear in to the Liffey on their way home, vowing never to lace those boots up again.
The gods might love a trier, but when you try that hard with no reward you end up chucking profanities in their direction, wondering what you did to incur their wrath for as many third-Sundays-in-September as you can remember.
“It scars the soul of players,” said Colm O’Rourke during the post-match discussion which turned in to a symposium on pain. “And the wider community of Mayo will be saying ‘what have we done to have this visited upon us year after year?’”
Joe Brolly, uncharacteristically, tried to look on the positive side after Colm had saluted Mayo’s display as their greatest ever, but still one that left them coming away with nothing.
Joe: “I disagree entirely with that – they came away with honour and glory.” Colm: “That’s not much good to these players.” Joe’s face: Hmm, true.
Pat agreed with Colm. “You get naught for being second,” he said, although he recalled getting a runners-up medal once, it meaning so little to him he probably uses it to release the trolleys at his local Lidl.
The afternoon had begun with Michael Lyster wandering around the Croke Park museum where Mayo’s memories of their last All-Ireland success are stored, the consensus of his panel being that there was such universal goodwill towards the county you half-expected to see a banner on Hill 16 reading ‘Ah Go On Lads, Give Them This One’.
While Joe was very well turned out in his new fluffy hair-do – “It looks like he got a fright,” said Pat – the chief focus of the chat was on how well a muscled Diarmuid Connolly looked in his vest during the pre-match warm-up. “If I had a body like that I’d be wearing a vest too,” said Joe. “That is what the physique of an intercounty player is now – biceps, triceps, oooooh, gee,” Pat purred. Colm was beginning to think he’d turned up on TV3’s Xposé.
Time for a quick word with the managers who were open, frank and revealing in their interviews. Kidding. “Very settled, staid men,” said Michael, Jim ‘Process’ Gavin reminding Colm of the ice coolness of “Bjorn Borg who used to play the tennis”.
Prediction time. Colm/Joe/Pat: “I would love to see Mayo win, but . . . ”. Dublin, then. For Mayo to have any hope, of course, they needed a good start. Within 90 seconds Con O’Callaghan tangoed through their defence and the net bulged. So much for that.
But it was almost like the old Arsenal, Dublin appearing to think one goal would do, waiting until the 15th minute until they decided it best to add a second score. By then Mayo had achieved the impossible, making them appear sort of human, Dessie Dolan spotting at one stage that the Dubs had all 15 men behind the ball and in their own half, and Dessie being Dessie he couldn’t resist noting that they’d be disappointed with that.
“Now we’re sucking diesel,” Joe declared on seeing Mayo putting it up the Dubs, but Colm rang a warning bell, reminding him that while they’d sucked a tank-full of diesel in that first half, they were only a point up. And they might run out of fuel in the second.
There was just time for Michael to tell us that Imelda May was entertaining the crowd at half-time, like she had done at the McGregor-Mayweather tiff. “And still singing out of tune,” said Joe.
Second half. On came Connolly in a shirt with sleeves, exile over. Off went John Small and Donal Vaughan for unruliness. Dubs two points up. “I think Mayo might need a goal,” said Dessie. Lee Keegan obliged. By now you wanted Sam split in half, each county getting a handle, it was glorious stuff.
Mayo two up with eight to go. “Now Dublin, what have you got left,” asked Ger Canning.
Quite a bit, as it turned out. Dean guaranteed a thousand ‘The Rock Mayo Perished On’ headlines with his late, late, late free. All over.
“The sympathy of the world goes out to Mayo,” said Colm, and he probably wasn’t wrong, from Baghdad to Bogota there’d have been people saying ‘feck, did you hear Mayo lost again?’
But the panel took time to doff their collective caps to Dublin too. Pat: “I’ve mentioned two words all the time about what makes Dublin so great – composure and decision-making.” Joe: “That’s three words.” Pat: “ You’re right.”
We finished up with ‘I guess that’s why they call it the blues’. “Between you and me,’ Elton crooned, “I could honestly say, that things can only get better.”
Mayo nodded, as one.